Thursday, 13 August,New Delhi: The stormy Monsoon session of Parliament came to an end on Thursday, becoming a virtual washout and delaying legislations, including the crucial GST bill, which could not be passed because of continuous acrimony and disruptions. During the entire four weeks of the session which began on July 21, the Lalit Modi controversy and Vyapam scam of Madhya Pradesh dominated, resulting in paralysis of both Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
The confrontation escalated when Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan on August 3 suspended 25 of the 44 Congress members for five days for continously disrupting the House and displaying placards. The Speaker’s action made several opposition parties join hands with Congress and they collectively boycotted the Lower House of Parliament for five days to show solidarity with the suspended MPs.
Rajya Sabha was a complete washout while Lok Sabha managed to work during Question Hour amid din for a number of days and saw some legislative business in the absence of boycotting opposition parties. The proceedings in both the Houses were drowned during the entire session in slogan-shouting by Congress members who were pressing for resignation of External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and Rajasthan Chief Minister Vasundhara Raje over Lalit Modi controversy and ouster of Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan over Vyapam scam. As a result of paralysis in Parliament, most of the legislative work could not be conducted.
Among the major reform legislations which remained pending were the ambitious Goods and Services Tax (GST) bill, which aims at overhauling the indirect taxation system in the country by ushering in a uniform regime. The much-talked about Land Acquisition Bill too was put off till the next session despite much climbdown by the government on key provisions as the joint committee report could not be presented due to tussle between BJP and its detractors.
Lok Sabha finally took up a discussion on the Lalit Modi row on the penultimate day yesterday, which saw attacks and counter attacks between treasury and opposition benches before Congress walked out. Even today, when the House was adjourned sine die, Congress and a number of other Opposition parties staged a walkout raising a variety of issues, including the demand for the Prime Minister’s reply to the charges against Swaraj and Raje and Chouhan. While adjourning the House sine die, the Speaker referred to her decision to suspend 25 Congress members, saying she was forced to take the “tough action as a last resort and a last option”.
The Rajya Sabha, which was the worst hit, worked for just about nine hours and lost a massive 82 hours to disruptions. Lok Sabha sat for 47 hours and 27 minutes working in the din but lost 34 hours and four minutes due to the protests. However, it also sat late for five hours and 27 minutes to compensate the time lost to some extent.
While 10 bills were introduced and 6 were passed in the Lok Sabha, Rajya Sabha saw passage/return of 2 bills and withdrawl of three bills. The two Houses saw statements being made on terrorist attacks in Gurdaspur and Udhampur and the twin train accidents in Harda district of Madhya Pradesh. This was the first session of the new Lok Sabha which witnessed so many disruptions as the earlier sessions during the Narendra Modi dispensation had witnessed a record work. In Rajya Sabha, Chairman Hamid Ansari dispensed with the convention of reading out the work done by the House during the session.
Mahajan lamented that so much time was lost to disruptions and hoped that future sessions would see some work happening. “I am confident that in the coming sessions, we will continue to work better and more,” she said. She noted that in earlier sessions during the current Lok Sabha, the House had set a benchmark of high standards and productivity ratio was well over 100 per cent.
Noting that she had to resort to suspension of some members on August 3 for five days, she said she had to take this “tough action as a last resort and a last option” due to persistent disruptions of proceedings. She hoped that the Chair would not be forced to resort to such a step in future.